Gerald Finzi

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Gerald Raphael Finzi (14 July 1901 – 27 September 1956) was a British composer. Finzi is best-known as a song-writer, but also wrote in other genres. Large-scale compositions by Finzi include the cantata Dies natalis for solo voice and string orchestra, and his two orchestral concertos for cello and clarinet.



Born in London, son of John Abraham (Jack) Finzi (of Italian Jewish descent) and Eliza Emma (Lizzie) Leverson (daughter of Montague Leverson,[1] of German Jewish descent), Finzi nevertheless became one of the most characteristically "English" composers of his generation. Despite being an agnostic, he wrote some inspired and imposing Christian choral music.

Finzi's father, a successful shipbroker, died when his son was seven. Gerald was educated privately. During World War I the family settled in Harrogate, and Gerald began to study music at Christ Church, High Harrogate under Ernest Farrar — whose death at the Western Front affected him deeply. During these formative years he also suffered the loss of three of his brothers. These adversities contributed to Finzi's bleak outlook on life, but he found solace in the poetry of Thomas Traherne and his favourite, Thomas Hardy, whose poems, as well as those by Christina Rossetti, he began to set to music. In the poetry of Hardy, Traherne, and later William Wordsworth, Finzi was attracted by the recurrent motif of the innocence of childhood corrupted by adult experience. From the very beginning, most of his music was elegiac in tone.

1918–1933: Studies and early compositions

After Farrar's death, Finzi studied privately at York Minster with the organist and choirmaster Edward Bairstow, a strict teacher compared to Farrar. In 1922, following five years of study with Bairstow, Finzi moved to Painswick in Gloucestershire, where he began composing in earnest. His first Hardy settings and the orchestral piece A Severn Rhapsody were soon performed in London to favourable reviews.

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